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The best defense is a strong offense, and Jumbo-Visma sent four riders into a big group of 25 in the opening kilometers of Wednesday’s stage that eventually prompted the other GC teams to shut it down. Once a seven-rider break pulled clear, things could return to normal in another hard-fought stage at the Vuelta a España.
Most people didn’t see the first hour of racing in Wednesday’s 14th stage across western Spain. The average speed was nearly 50kph, and wave after wave of breakaway attempts nearly blew up the bunch on the green hills of Galicia.
Primož Roglič pedaled one day closer to Madrid, and to what the team hopes will be another grand tour victory.
“It was really fast, very difficult for all of us, but our guys did again a great job,” Roglič said. “We are all here to race. It was quite a fast and hard stage all the way to the finish line.”
Everyone’s antenna was up for Wednesday’s hilly profile, and Jumbo-Visma was not about to get caught napping after Roglič recaptured the Vuelta’s red jersey in Tuesday’s decisive time trial. With two more transition stages on tap before Saturday’s final climbing stage at La Covatilla, Roglič was content to let the breakaway ride for the win.
Tim Wellens (Lotto-Soudal) dashed to his second win of this Vuelta ahead of Michael Woods (EF Pro Cycling), with Roglič coming across the line in third in the GC group more than three minutes back in the short uphill finale. With the threat of gaps opening up, Roglič wasn’t about to let a second slip away.
“It was again a good day for us,” Roglič said. “If there had been an opportunity [to take time], definitely. But the breakaway was there, and it was also for us a big sprint to come here to the top.”
The next two stages in the Vuelta road book favor breakaways, or perhaps even a bunch sprint if some of the other teams want to control the pace. Jumbo-Visma’s Robert Gesink said the team is hoping things stay on equal terms until the Covatilla climb Saturday.
“For me, it would be nice to keep it how it is, and we can take this to Madrid,” said Gesink. “We have the red jersey, and we want to keep it that way. Carapaz and Carthy are both close, within a minute, and there is one uphill finish to come, so we have to watch them closely.”
With a long, 230km stage on tap Thursday, Jumbo-Visma’s George Bennett said he expects the breakaway riders to continue to press the action, adding, “So long as there is no one dangerous in the breaks, it’s good for us.”
The final hurdle is Saturday’s summit finale at La Covatilla, but with forecasters calling for a chance of snow near the 1,959-meter-high summit that could alter the stage, Roglič’s rivals might have to try to get creative in the next two stages if they hope to wrestle away the leader’s jersey.
Jumbo-Visma won’t want to relax their vigilance in the closing days of the Vuelta. Last year, Roglič was in an even more comfortable GC position, yet almost got caught out in the crosswinds in the closing stages.